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The role of software in safety

05 November 2019

Personnel Protection Technologies (PPT) are changing the way that both individuals and companies detect risks in hazardous environments. Their prevalence in industry is increasing as companies look to modernise and improve their safety operations. 

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

As PPT becomes a more viable option for use in high hazard industries, there is an increased need for a smarter way of managing and taking advantage of the data produced by smart safety devices. For this article, Hazardex Associate Editor Alistair Hookway spoke to Restrata CEO Botan Osman about the digital transformation of safety and the role that software plays in managing and analysing the data produced by PPT.

The strong demand, growing supply and decreasing costs of PPT indicate that a digital transformation of safety is well underway. This next generation of wearable & IoT devices, paired with Cloud-based platforms, is unlocking the potential for the next major chapter in safety management. This ‘safety 2.0’ generation is about highlighting and refreshing the vision for what is possible when safety and technology combine.

Safety improves incrementally with every introduction of new standards and improvements can be seen every year. However, safety 2.0 is about the full adoption of new technologies in order to create the next wave of disruptive change in the safety sector where standards and solutions are improved in parallel. Digital safety enables faster access to vital information in order to understand when and how to act to protect lives and assets. It also enables the capture of safety-related data, which means that over time, analytics can be used to impact long term improvements in the way safety managers operate.

Software as a Service

Cloud-based platforms have been built that integrate real-time data from IoT sensors and wearables – for tracking, access control, and travel management at either a specific site or for an individual person – with localised site-based management to offer a global view of an enterprise’s operations. The platform is particularly pertinent for lone workers operating in hazardous or restricted environments. Tracking paired with mass communications functionality enables Control Centre Operators to respond quickly and accurately when an alert is raised.

With multiple associations with hardware vendors, the software is designed to be hardware agnostic so that it can integrate with almost any type of wearable and provide a seamless view of an entire enterprise, regardless of whether the organisation is using legacy equipment or investing in new technology. This is where the future of wearables will be paramount in the sector. The ability to connect each individual on a site with sensors and understand their exact location, heartbeat, gas monitoring etc., changes the way organisations are able to detect and manage risk.

Enterprise software offers companies a granular global picture of every site under their jurisdiction in real-time – an indication that paper tick sheets may soon be a thing of the past. One of the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) Platforms is that they are simple to launch and can be expanded across sites rapidly, allowing an enterprise to access data across all their sites holistically.

For example, if a client has multiple sites registered across various access control systems, different Bluetooth systems etc., and were then to open a brand-new site with no hardware whatsoever, handset mobile devices can quickly be deployed with an app-based version of the software, almost overnight. The Cloud-based software paired with the handset app can efficiently register people moving in and out of sites and zones, with the added ability to muster and evacuate.

The power of using Cloud-based software is that it brings together the total picture. Regardless of where an emergency team, crisis response team, or operations team is, they will be able to get a real-time view of what’s happening in a situation and become completely geographically independent in terms of the way that they respond to incidents.

As with all technological developments, the increased use of PPT has come with its own issues and restrictions. Just a few years ago, Big Data and network restrictions were difficult hurdles to overcome, but recent improvements to network speeds and the development of satellite technologies have meant these are no longer major barriers to adoption. This also means that Cloud-based software platforms can overcome unlikely downtime restrictions and benefit from the large amounts of data produced by PPT in an effective and continuous manner.

For some companies, there has always been some trepidation when engaging with new technology even though this means losing out on opportunities to save time and money and improve safety. However, technology adoption is not simply just an implementation of the technology itself. It’s also important to consider how new technology fits into the wider context of an organisation and how it can help change a corporate culture for the better. To make technology truly effective, ease of engagement and ease of implementation are both essential in understanding how it can improve current operations.

The future

Ultimately, the future of safety is all about data and the analysis of such data that correlates around people, assets and environments. The way those three subjects interrelate will enable insights to improve the way that safety managers respond in the moment, but also enables long-term improvements to safety operations. Of course, it is wearables, smarter software and connected devices that will play huge role in obtaining this data. It’s all about the initial, and accurate, data capture at the point of an event along with the relaying of feedback on that data back to the point of the event.

For example, if an engineer wearing a gas detector is alerted to high gas levels, then the feedback for that engineer and any other personnel on the site would be to exit that area immediately. This feedback could come via a smartwatch or other wearable device and would display a warning to any personnel in the vicinity of where the initial data is recorded. All workers would then be tracked via the enterprise software to ensure everyone is accounted for and been able to retreat to a safe location. 

Expectations of software in terms of user experience and design are now higher than ever before. Even industrial safety-based software is required to be well designed and engaging for the user. Intuitive software that is simple to use and easy to integrate with hardware allows data produced by PPT to be effectively managed and monitored. Together with PPT, software can play a crucial role in developing smarter safety operations and minimising risks in hazardous environments.   

About the author

Botan Osman is CEO of Restrata and was appointed into the position in 2017. He previously served as Global Director for Business Development & prior to that as Country Director Kurdistan. Botan joined Restrata in 2013 from the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, where he founded the KRG Department of IT & served the Head. He also served as the IT Advisor to the Prime Minister. Botan holds a BEng in Software Engineering from Manchester University and has over two decades of experience in Technology & Security Industries in UK, Europe & Middle East. He has also completed executive programmes at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, NDU & the UK Defence Academy.

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